Juno Therapeutics, focused on developing cell-based immunotherapies based on its chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) and high-affinity T cell, inked a deal to obtain a license from National Cancer Institute (NCI) partner Opus Bio for a CAR-T cell product candidate targeting CD22—a protein expressed on most B cell leukemias and lymphomas. CD22 complements Juno’s existing CD19 directed portfolio.
In collaboration with Opus Bio, NCI has already initiated enrollment in a Phase I trial evaluating the candidate in children and adolescents with relapsed/refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The NCI-sponsored trial is designed to enroll patients with CD22 positive cancers, with both CD19 positive and CD19 negative patients eligible for treatment.
According to Juno, its CAR and TCR platform activate a patient’s own T cells so they attack cancer cells. Through genetic engineering, a gene is inserted for a particular CAR or TCR construct into the T cell enabling it to better recognize cancer cells. The modified T cells can be infused into the patient or frozen and stored for later infusion.
Juno Therapeutics was launched in December 2013 by Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and Seattle Children’s Research Institute. The company had raised $176 million by April from investors that include Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos.
Last week, FDA granted the Seattle-based company Breakthrough Therapy Designation for JCAR015 (CD19). The designation applies for the treatment of relapsed or refractory B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia and was filed by MSKCC, where Phase I clinical trials are currently underway.